my year in beer 2018

St Andrews Brewing Co. Potterrow, Edinburgh

I like stats, so here’s one to start us off: For the first ten months of the year I averaged 20 new beers a month. That’s 2 new beers every 3 days! In total I had 236 different beers in the year.

Here’s a second stat: After Germany (133), where I live, the country whose beer I drank most was Scotland (31). Twenty of those were enjoyed in Edinburgh – that city is a wet dream for beer and pub enthusiasts, by the way.

Trompete Taproom, Riga

My favourite style last year was witbier. Or was it wee heavy? Or perhaps wee heavy’s smaller cousin the Scottish export? In any case, my palate was planted firmly on this side of the pond: my preferences skewed Belgian and Scottish, eschewing aggressive hops character for spice, yeast or malt. I also actively explored Trappist ales early in the year and was impressed by their complexity. Probably as a consequence of having too much of a good thing, by autumn I’d built up a hankering for a quaffable, quiet and quintessentially English Bitter. I was in England in May; I regret not appreciating the non-confrontational personality of English styles until long after coming back to the continent.

But 2019 is going to be USA and New England IPA all the way. I’d almost forgotten how delicious a juicy IPA can be.

Alaus Biblioteka, Vilnius

Out of the 124 breweries whose products I tasted, the brewery I drank from most was Ratsherrn (12), based in Hamburg. Unsurprising, considering their ever expanding roster of high quality brews and my penchant to while away entire evenings at their lovely brewpub. The runner-up was Störtebeker (10), a deliberately niche branch of Stralsunder where I had my first brewery tour. Northern Germany represent!

Along with drinking like a fish, I brewed a lot: 14 different styles for a total of 130 litres in 2018. That’s a crap ton of beer. Most of it tasted like homebrew, but the dark lager, helles and gose produced in January were exceedingly drinkable. In October I was commissioned to make a batch of Belgian blond ale for my friend’s PhD defence party and it was a real moment of pride to watch 10L of hard work be enjoyed by so many people.

Advanced homebrew system, The Brwooery

Drinking alone is absolutely no problem for me; I even wrote a poem about the phenomenon. But drinking with good company elevates the moment to another plane. The highlight of the year was, therefore, the brews I was lucky enough to enjoy with friends I don’t see nearly often enough, including Jenny (Vilnius), Debbie (Droitwich Spa), Emily (Amsterdam) and David (Ottawa).

On that note, I’d like to raise my glass of fermented barley juice to my friends – and to the opportunity of raising it with them again soon.

Canvas at Volkshotel, Amsterdam

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